It's 10 pm. Do you know where you and your loved ones are? Here is a collection of experiences from those who live / have lived with an obsessive MMOG gamer and from those who have lived the experience of obsessive MMOG gaming.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The holidays are drawing near. This is always the time when emotions are heightened and when both the good and the bad become exaggerated. And it's a time when people might stop for a minute and reflect on the year that's passed.

I remember the years when I played EQ obsessively. Yes, I use the term "obsessively" because people hate to be called addicts. The term "addicted" evokes a too painful reminder of how weak our self-control can be. None of us like to think of ourselves that way. So unsurprisingly, people don't call or perceive themselves to be addicted to anything unless they are joking ("I am sooo addicted to hot showers") or if they are unapologetically honest about their own weaknesses ("I have an immense problem that I cannot control and need help from someone other than me even though it's highly shameful").

So let's forget about that A term for a minute. And back to remembering the time "I was being an obsessive EQ player". Unhealthily obsessed ("Obsession doesn't do a body good!").

I think that period of my life was the only time when I was neither getting the fuzzy feeling of the holidays nor the feeling of renewal with the beginning of the new year. In Everquest, the air and the surroundings don't change that much, and we all know that whatever it is that changes is fully controlled by some programmers sitting in some SOE building. Other EQ players may yell "Happy Holidays" and hug and attempt to throw confetti, but that typically only lasts for a minute or so before everyone returns to what they were set out to do. It's as if dreams do not exist in online games - you may speak about them and be heard but really, nothing changes. And that was such a different feeling from other computer activity: Even during my IRC days when I decided to document 12 non-stop hours on an IRC channel over the holidays, I remember the joy I felt chatting online with people from different parts of the world about everything and nothing.

Everquest does not have real seasons. There are too many structures, too many tasks and far too little leisure. The eggnog that you can brew is cute the first time around but it doesn't give us the same sensations a real eggnog does (or does not, in my case), and it quickly turns into just another item that's either useful (or sellable) or not. People hug online but quite frankly, when you turn around and see yourself in a dark room with a flickering computer screen as the only holiday lighting, you can feel the emptiness ooze all around you despite the cheerful existence in the virtual world.

Give yourself a holiday present this year and take a break from the everyday mundanity. Especially computer mundanity. Screw the online friends and acquaintances - they have their own families and partners, and they don't need you to celebrate the holidays. Give the raiding and mob killing a break. Is there a book you always wanted to read, or a movie you always wanted to see? Go to a coffee place, grab a nice mug of tea / coffee / hot chocolate and settle down in a sofa for a nice long read. Take a long walk. Grab a board or card game, a few munchies and sit down with friends or loved ones. Watch some end-of-the-year specials on TV. Hug anything that's huggable, even if it's only the pillow that's in reach right now. Smell the air, can you smell a difference? If not, it's time to put something in the oven ;)

Put those overused braincells on the shelf, let them recharge and go dig up some long forgotten skills... the ones that remember how to sing along with Christmas/Hanukkah songs. The ones that revel in the smells and tastes of those special foods that are only made this season in your family. The ones that you used to find presents that would make others squeal in delight. Do yourself a favour and do something different this year. Even if it's something as silly-pathetic as buying your family dog a big edible christmas gift.

I know, I know, it's not quite Christmas yet. But I figured that if I talk about it now, maybe you'll have enough time to prepare yourself for a vacation from EQ, WOW, SWG, DAOC or whatever alternate universe you have been calling your home for the past few years.

Happy Holidays!

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